We write concerning decisions taken by the Department for Education and Skills and the Higher Education Funding Council for England on the funding of research following the 2001 research assessment exercise.
We, 30 chairs of RAE assessment panels, are profoundly concerned about the approach adopted. It is widely seen as unjust, and it has produced widespread demoralisation in the universities.
The assessment panels, which are managed by Hefce, arrived at decisions on research quality on the basis of a published set of criteria, wide consultation and external involvement including input from international experts. All exercised professional judgement in good faith.
By inventing a new grade of 5** after the event and awarding it on a formulaic basis, the DFES and Hefce have sidelined the assessment process.
Had we been asked, we would not have supported this approach, which offends the academic community's sense of justice and undermines trust in outcomes resulting from the RAE.
The new funding decision has instantly diminished the status of research in all departments not awarded a 5**. This seriously impairs quality research, even in many departments rated 5*, and we doubt that this was an intended consequence.
We are particularly concerned about the decision to reduce severely the funding to 4-rated departments in England and in Northern Ireland. This will cost many internationally ranked researchers both funding and external recognition, to the detriment of the research base. In Scotland, by contrast, the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council has maintained the level of funding to grade 4 and 5 departments, despite raising the amount awarded to grade 5*s. However, there is deep concern that an excessive concentration of resources in selected universities in England will undermine research in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to the detriment of the entire UK research system.
We hope that the DFES and Hefce will recognise that unless widespread confidence in their funding decisions is restored, there will be little, if any, willingness in the national and international academic community to cooperate in any future RAEs.
Chairs, assessments panels:
Professor Christopher Baker University of Manchester
Chair, UoA 23, Applied Mathematics Emeritus Professor John Barnard University of Leeds, chair UoA 50, English
language and literature Professor Tim Barrett School of Oriental and African Studies
Chair, UoA 47, Asian Studies Professor Hugh Beale University of Warwick
Chair, UoA 36, Law Professor Senga Bond University of Newcastle
Chair, UoA 10, Nursing Professor Peter Brandon University of Salford
Chair, UoA 33, Built Environment Professor Emeritus Sally Brown University of Stirling
Chair, UoA 68, Education Professor Philip Burnham
University College London
Chair, UoA 37, Anthropology Professor Christopher Carey University College London
Chair, UoA 57, Classics, Ancient History, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies Professor Nicholas Cook
University of Southampton
Chair, UoA 67, Music Professor Cary L. Cooper University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology
Chair, UoA 43, Business and Management Studies Professor Greville G. Corbett University of Surrey
Chair, UoA 56, Linguistics Professor Trevor J. Dadson University of Birmingham
Chair, UoA 55, Iberian Languages and Literatures Professor Diana Donald Manchester Metropolitan University
Chair, UoA 60, History of Art, Architecture and Design Professor Judith Elkin University of Central England
Chair, UOA 61, Library and Information Management Professor John Elsworth University of Manchester
Chair, UoA 54, Russian, Slavonic and East
European Languages Professor David Evans Queen's University Belfast
Chair UoA 62, Philosophy Professor Duncan Forrester
University of Edinburgh, chair UoA 63, Theology,
Divinity and Religious Studies Professor Michael Fulford University of Reading
Chair, UoA 58, Archaeology Professor Chris Gratton Sheffield Hallam University
Chair, UoA 69, Sport-related Subjects Professor Baz Kershaw University of Bristol
Chair, UoA 66, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts Professor Laura Lepschy University College London
Chair, UoA 53, Italian Professor Susanne MacGregor Middlesex University
Chair, Joint Panel for UoA40 Social Policy and Administration, UoA 41, Social Work Professor Byron J.T. Morgan University of Kent
Chair, UoA 24, Statistics and Operational Research Professor Richard Munton University College London
Chair, UoA 35, Geography Professor Judie Newman University of Newcastle
Chair, UoA 45, American Studies Professor David Otley Lancaster University
Chair, UoA 44, Accounting and Finance Professor Warren Pescod University of Newcastle
UoA 28, Civil Engineering Professor Michael Prestwich University of Durham, chair UoA 59, History Professor John Punter Cardiff University
Chair, UoA 34, Town and Country Planning Professor Philip Schlesinger University of Stirling
Chair, UoA 65, Communication, Cultural and Media Studies Professor John Spence University of Strathclyde
Chair, UoA 30, Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering Professor Norma Starszakowna The London Institute
Chair, UoA 64, Art and Design Professor John Urry Lancaster University
Chair, UoA 42, Sociology